'News deserts' are areas where citizens have very limited access to reliable news and information due to the absence of local, regional and community media. These media are vital for the creation of a democratic culture in any country, as they provide stories of relevance to local communities, show the impact of national issues on the local level, and ensure political accountability.
Their current crisis, aggravated by the changed consumer habits and falling advertising revenues, represents a major threat to media pluralism in Europe.
This EU-funded project aims to revive the local media landscape in these areas with measures to build local and regional media resilience, independence, and sustainability by improving their capacity in innovation, business strategies, and audience engagement.
The Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom will carry out the preliminary research to inform the consortium with quality data on the 'desertification' of EU local media. The research team will map the emerging news deserts in Europe, highlighting the main risk and providing key information for the allocation of grants.
“The crisis of local, regional and community media with the rise of ‘news deserts’ in the EU has negative political, social and economic implications for our society and our democracy,” says Professor Pier Luigi Parcu, Director of the programme. “We are honoured to contribute to this vital project that seeks to invert the trend, supporting it with our academic expertise and network of researchers”.
The financial support will be allocated through a Media Funding Scheme and will go to at least 30 local, regional and community media which are struggling to serve the public interest in places where access to information has significantly decreased. The selected media will also receive technical and mentorship support to improve their organisational capacity, journalism innovation and business sustainability.
The "Local Media for Democracy" project will be led by the European Federation of Journalists with a consortium of partners: the Centre for Media Freedom and Pluralism, International Media Support (IMS) and Journalismfund.eu.
The project is co-funded by the European Commission (DG CONNECT). It will start on 1 February 2023 for a period of 18 months. Two calls for proposals will be published in March and July 2023 for local, regional and community media located in news desert areas to apply. Click here for more information about the project.